Deng Lei's parents pulled him out of school more than once when the money ran out for his education.
His school days in Jinzhai County, Anhui Province, one of the poorest counties in China, were often spent picking fungi or fruit to help his rice-farmer parents as they struggled to raise four children.
University was just a pipe dream, or so he thought.
Today he's a high-flying student at the Chinese University of Science and Technology -- one of the many children of China's poverty-stricken hill villages and towns to benefit from the country's rural tax reforms.
"Without the help of the government and society, I couldn't have left my poor home village to receive a first-class higher education here," he said.
In March 2000, a pilot rural tax reform swept his hometown, abolishing education fees for farmers' children and bringing an allowance of 500 yuan (US$60) for every school year.
Jiang Zuojun, vice-governor of the Anhui Province, said the tax reform had greatly lightened the financial load of farmers and encouraged them to spend more on their children's education.
If the tax reform is implemented in all of rural China, analysts predict that Chinese farmers' annual income will see a rise of more than 10 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion).
To date, the Jinzhai County government has exempted students' tuition and other incidental fees, and raised more than 10 million yuan (US$1.2 million) to improve school buildings and update educational facilities.
China has nearly 900 million rural residents and most of them are poorly educated. To shake off poverty, the country has to equip its rural citizens with advanced technology as fast as possible and make sure every child has access to the schooling he or she deserves.
When the amendment of the agricultural law was reviewed during the recent meeting of the Standing Committee of the Ninth National People's Congress, supporting rural education and boosting agriculture through science and technology were confirmed as the country's top priorities.
Many rural children like Deng are benefiting from the country's rural tax reforms and social charity programs.
Of the total 1.2 million rural kids unable to go to school in Anhui, more than 200,000 have resumed their education with the help of "Project Hope" and "Spring Buds" programs.
(Xinhua News Agency July 11, 2002)